History of fight for rights of LGBT parents to be preserved at Yale

The Yale University Library and the Family Equality Council are partnering to preserve the history of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) parent equality movement.

It was announced on Oct. 10 that Family Equality, which represents the 3 million LGBT parents in America and their 6 million children, will deed to Yale all historical materials related to the organization and its role in the LGBT family equality movement. The agreement ensures the preservation of more than 30 years of materials related to the founding, growth, and expansion of Family Equality, and documents the organization’s ongoing efforts to advance equality for families with LGBT parents. 

Family Equality’s records include correspondence, planning documents, governance board minutes, annual reports, publications, and financial documents. The materials will be housed in the Yale Library’s Manuscripts and Archives department, arriving in early 2014, after which work will be done to prepare them for research. They will be part of a growing collection of primary source materials documenting the history of LGBT people at the local, national, and international levels. The acquisition is a result of a donation from a long-time supporter of the Family Equality Council.

Family Equality is one of several family advocacy organizations across the country whose history has been documented in a project supervised by George Chauncey ’77 B.A., ’89 Ph.D., the Samuel Knight Professor of History and American Studies and co-director of the Yale Research Initiative on the History of Sexualities. The goal of the project is to document the history of the LGBT family equality movement in the United States.

The oral histories, document surveys, and timelines generated as part of the project are being preserved in Manuscripts and Archives department, which also holds the papers of Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, the litigation group that won the right of same-sex couples to marry in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and other states, and Love Makes a Family, a group that worked to secure the legal recognition of LGBT-headed families in Connecticut. As part of the project, Yale University has provided the Family Equality Council with one of the first tangible results of the preservation effort — a historical timeline that traces the legal and cultural history of the LGBT family equality movement.

“I’m grateful that the Family Equality Council has donated its records to Yale, and that the Yale University Library has made a commitment to preserving such materials,” said Chauncey. “The dramatic growth in the number of families headed by LGBT parents in the last generation is a remarkable historical development, and it would not have been possible without the work of Family Equality Council and allied organizations to make such families more secure. These records will be invaluable to historians and other scholars seeking to document and interpret this profound cultural transformation.” 

“The history of Family Equality Council and the LGBT family movement are closely intertwined,” said Family Equality’s executive director Gabriel Blau. “From our first humble beginnings as a support network for divorced gay fathers to our role as the author of an historic amicus brief that influenced the Supreme Court decisions on DOMA and Prop 8, our mission and impact have grown to meet the changing needs and visibility of our families. It is a measure of how far we’ve come that we can now take the time to preserve these historic materials,” he said.

Blau went on to note, “It is my fervent hope that well before another three decades have passed, we can close the books on this part of our nation’s history because we will have achieved full legal and social equality for families with parents who are LGBT.”    

Manuscripts and Archives is a major center for historical inquiry and also serves as the documentary memory of Yale University.  The Yale University Library supports all areas of current and historical lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender scholarship at Yale.